Usually a leap of faith isn’t meant literally. When I spent the weekend in Guatapé, Colombia I didn’t even realize I would be taking one. The experience was already better than I was expecting. The group of us, who had been traveling together for 11 months with Remote Year, rode on the top of vans down the breathtaking countryside, hiked up to see landscape views easily inspired by the Garden of Eden, and wandered through a town seemingly lost in time, all while eating delicious Colombian food and listening to the music played by locals.
These moments were all lovely and remarkable. But there was a familiar comfort in them. There were no stakes. Nothing was being asked of me except to lounge in a hammock, sip a beer, and take it all in. Well not until we came across the long yellow bridge, it’s lemon-tinted metal stretching across the river.
We were wearing our bathing suits, our group a kaleidoscope of patterns and sizes. We all knew this moment was coming. And I had packed mine too, but as someone who had only recently stopped shaking from fear in natural bodies of water, I figured I would just wade in from the sand.
So I watched as one by one my friends climbed on top of the yellow rail, cheers of support and encouragement beckoning them from below. Then, as if it were the easiest thing in the world, they leapt free, daring gravity to pry them from the air and disappear them into the waters down below. And gravity obliged, every single time. And every time after my friends would reemerge from the depths, laughing, exuberant, joyful, exhilarated.
Again and again, leap and laughter and repeat. Until it was just me and one other girl. Carla turned to me and asked, “Do you want to do this?”
I don’t know if I was visibly shaking when I said yes.
But I remember the way my heart started pumping, like it knew my blood was full of courage and if it just pumped hard enough it would convince me I could breathe underwater. And I remember the way my stomach dropped, like it would detach from me completely, pass through the bridge itself and settle into the water below, ready to catch me after the fall.
From below, my friends, these humans that had been strangers a year ago and over the course of 11 months had changed the course of my life, cheered for me. A trio gathered below, one holding a floating device.
“We got you!” They called up to me, as the reality of my choice began to settle in.
“Please,” I begged from above, tears threatening to spill from my eyes.
I was going to do this?
“Listen, Chimdi,” Carla pulled me towards her. “When you drop, you’re going to go under.”
I nod, more terrified than I had ever been in my life. I imagine the water filling my lungs as I thrash against a suffocating river, desperate, reaching for something solid, anything, and getting cold silence in response.
She pulls me back.
“Don’t panic. Remember. You are going to be okay. People are going to get you.”
I nod again.
“Please get me,” I plead again to them, the tears free now.
They promise again from below.
As I move to the railing, hands gripping the iron, I suddenly remember. Not learn, but remember. I remember what it means to have faith. I remember what it means to have love. I remember what it means to have people rooting for you, pulling for you, waiting for you, confident in you.
The countdown begins and I remember why it’s called a leap of faith. Because there are no guarantees in this life. But we make choices because we have faith that the people who love us will not let us down. They will root. They will pull. They will wait. They will save.
The only thing more real than the water below was the faith I had in my friends swimming in it.
So I let go. For the first time in my life there was nothing but air above me and water below. For the first time in my life, I decided my soul was something I could trust others with fully. And so I went down. I remembered what Carla said, and as the sky disappeared and I felt nothing but water in every direction, I didn’t panic.
The moments seemed to stretch a lifetime as I willed my arms and legs to bring me to the surface. Nothing seemed to be happening but I didn’t stop. I kept my eyes shut tight, and kept my limbs moving. And just as the first slither of doubt began to creep into the corners of my spirit, I felt the strong arms of my friends lift me up, and air filled my lungs once again.
The cold silence turned to boisterous cheers. Now I fully burst into tears.
Tears of laughter. Tears of exuberance. Tears of joy. Tears of exhilaration.
I couldn’t stop saying thank you. Because I wasn’t just grateful that they had pulled me up. I was grateful they believed I could do it. And I was grateful that they never stopped cheering me on until I did. It is my greatest wish that everyone has the opportunity to have this same experience. To leap with nothing but faith as your life jacket and then to hear the song your heart sings when you realize that this is more than enough.
When was the last time you were scared out of your mind and did the thing anyway?